Cowboy Up

I’m in The Small Blind holding Ks-Kc (aka cowboys) with 7 players left at the Final Table. Blinds and antes are $1,000/$5,000/$10,000. I have $255,421 in chips or about 25 big blinds putting me on the lower end of a medium-sized stack (medium stack = 20-50bbs). Ks-Kc is the second best starting hand in the game and can only be dominated by A-A. For this reason, I’m hoping to be all-in in Phase #2 – Pre-Flop.


The action folds around to me in The Small Blind. The Big Blind has $155,126 chips or about 15 big blinds making him a small stack. Remember that a small stack is less than or equal to 20 big blinds. I will never fold K-K here because it’s the second best starting hand in the game and I’m hoping to be all-in and called right now against my opponent. What options are available to me?

  • I can open raise all-in right now, forcing The Big Blind to either call or fold for all of his chips. This will get the desired result if The Big Blind happens to have a hand in the range of 22-AA, A-X, K-J, K-Q. But if The Big Blind does not have one of the hands in this range of hands, then he will fold. This play eliminates his option to bluff, therefore lowering our chances of being called.
  • I could also call the blind, disguising the strength of my hand. The upside to this is that my opponent will think I’m weak and may go all-in to win the blinds, hoping that I will fold. The downside is that he may check, seeing a free flop, where my K-K may no longer be the best hand. For example, if an ace hits the board.
  • Making a standard raise here is the best move. My raise will look like I’m trying to steal the Pot and potentially induce an all-in from the small stack. Of course, The Big Blind may fold, but I’ll still win the blinds and antes. The Big Blind may also call, building the Pot and giving me a good hand on the Flop unless and Ace shows on the board, a scare card that makes it easy to beat my K-K.


I make a min raise, which is called by Player 187 in The Big Blind. The Flop comes 9c-4c-2c and the action is on me. This is a good flop for me because I have an overpair to the board, a King High Flush draw, and my opponent has a small stack. My goal at this point is still to be all-in against Player 187. The best way to accomplish this goal is to make a standard continuation bet to induce an all-in from my opponent. If I check, then I may miss an opportunity to be all-in in a prime situation, ahead and dominating. Player 187 can easily check behind me, allowing another potential scare card to hit the board (like the Ace of Hearts) as well.

Note that Player 187 called my Pre-Flop raise with <20 big blinds. This implies that he is unaware that he should be all-in or folding with <20 big blinds. I can assume that Player 187 is a losing player and is capable of anything at this point for this reason. If he is calling behind with a short stack, then he may also bluff his entire tournament away at at bad time, make a bet that is too much or too little, or a number of other mistakes that will play to my advantage. It’s a good time for me to have a big hand.


I make an average sized continuation bet, hoping to induce an all-in and Player 187 calls. The Turn is the 2h. Again, Player 187 should not just be calling with a short stack. He now has 12 big blinds left and is making it harder and harder for him to exit the hand because there is enough in the Pot to significantly increase his stack size. As mentioned in other posts, the more you have invested into a Pot, the harder it is to fold. Think if you’ve put $5,000 into a $10,000 pot and left yourself with $100 in your stack with one card to come. No matter how bad your hand, you will alway put the additional $100 in to see if your hand is best and flip your cards for the potential to win $10,000. In this example, Player 187 is investing heavily into the hand, leaving few chips behind him.  

The 2h is an insignificant card, it did not fill up the Flush or put an overcard on the board to my K-K. For this reason, my plan stays the same. There is only $86,500 in the Pot and Player 187 has $125,376 left. If I go all-in then I’ll be making a huge bet, removing Player 187’s ability to bluff. Remember that a small bet is <1/3rd the Pot. A medium bet is ⅔-⅔ the Pot. A large bet is >2/3rds Pot. I want Player 187 to have the option to raise my bet, so I’ll bet again hoping to induce an all-in from my opponent.


I make another average sized bet and Player 187 raises. This is what I was hoping for. Player 187 has left 6 big blinds in his stack and I’m likely to get all of my chips in the Pot here. There are a few hands that beat me, like a flopped Flush, a set, or three twos.  I’m fairly confident I have the best hand and set myself up to be all-in in this position. If I’m not ahead here than I can feel good that I played the hand correctly and got unlucky.


I go all-in and Player 187 folds. My “good hand” strategy worked on this hand. I realized that I had a hand that I was ready and willing to go all-in with at every stage. I didn’t get tricky or try too hard. I made the appropriate bets, hoping to induce an all-in and finally on the Turn I was raised back. Player 187 played poorly on this hand, losing 9 big blinds and leaving himself with 6 left. Remember to not make random plays like this and be all-in or folding with a small stack.


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